A few weeks ago we talked about costing your apparel products and working backwards from your target retail price to create a budget for the costs. But what do you do if you find that your costs are too high and your factory can’t cut and sew your product for the cost you budgeted? Today we’ll look at four ways you can lower your cost to meet your target.
Simplify the construction
The first thing you can do to lower cost is to simplify the construction. Your factory is an expert at making clothing, so they may have suggestions of how to make your garment more cost-effective. Some factories are proactive about suggesting construction changes, while others you might need to ask. Either way, have a conversation with your factory about what changes could make the CMT (cut, make, trim) cost lower.
Adjusting the construction is a normal part of the pre-production process, so don’t feel bad if you have to troubleshoot with your factory after seeing the pre-production or costing sample. Some seams and finishes may work fine for initial sampling, but may not be the most effective for bulk production due to machine set-up, workflow, or fabric handling. The production line is a precise and streamlined process, so anything that can be done to eliminate wasted time, excess handling, or bottlenecks in the flow can help save you money.
Simplify the design
Another way you can save on cost is to simplify your design. Again, your factory is a great reference. You can ask them what design changes they would suggest to save a certain amount. You may decide to eliminate a design detail or style line, get rid of a set of darts, forego pockets, or remove the lining. Be flexible with your design. Yes, it is beautiful, but it will only get to make its way into the world if the cost is in line with your budget. There may be easy adjustments you can make to keep the overall look of the design, but reduce the complexity and cost to make it.
Source different fabric
A third way you can do to lower your costs is to source cheaper fabric. You may or may not want to do this depending on your quality standards, but it is a big cost-saving option if you can find a good alternative at a better price. Outside of just buying fabric that is cheaper per yard, keep in mind that sometimes a different fabric even of the same price can lower your costs. For example, if your original fabric was $7/yd and 48” wide, you could save money by finding a $7/yd fabric that was 58” wide. The extra 10” of width allows you to cut more pieces across the width without using as much linear length. One-way prints or fabrics with nap or pile (like velvet) can also often use more yardage than other fabrics. If you can switch to a fabric that allows two-way cutting, you may be able to save on fabric usage and cost.
Fabric can also impact the cost by how it handles during production. Excessive shrinkage, slippery fabric, inconsistent rolling, or edge curling on cut pieces can slow down the cutting and sewing and thus cost more money in production. Having your factory make size run samples and pre-production samples before buying bulk fabric is a great way for your factory to see how the fabric will behave in production and to then communicate any concerns to you. Be aware of these potential issues and know that you may be able to save on cost by changing to a new fabric.
Buy in larger quantities
One of the biggest ways you can save on product cost is to buy in larger quantities. Generally with fabrics as well as CMT, the more you buy, the cheaper per unit it is. I don’t recommend buying way more than you wanted to just to get a cheaper price, but it is worth mentioning that as your brand grows and you do order more, your cost per unit will go down. Both for fabric and CMT, you’ll pay the most for samples. Beyond that, you’ll usually see price breaks at around 300-500 pc., and again at 1,000-2,000 pc., then again at much higher quantities. Every factory and mill has slightly different price tiers, so ask them at what quantities the pricing might change.
Even if you don’t want to buy your product in larger quantities, you may be able to take advantage of these tiered pricing by using one fabric across multiple styles. That way you are buying a larger quantity of the same fabric at a better price, but splitting it amongst a handful of product styles instead of just one. You probably wouldn’t see CMT savings by doing this, but you could save on fabric cost.
Designing clothes for your brand takes balancing design and aesthetics with function and feasibility. If you find your product cost is too high, remember to consider your options, remain flexible, and keep conversations with your factory going.